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Datification and the Pursuit of Meaningfulness in Work

Mari‐Klara Stein, Erica L. Wagner, Pamela Tierney, Sue Newell and Robert D. Galliers

Journal of Management Studies, 2019, vol. 56, issue 3, 685-717

Abstract: Proliferation of digital means of tracking worker activities has contributed to the rise of data‐driven approaches to managing people, with employees often required to record their activities for accountability purposes. Increased requirement for such datification work occurs at a juncture where meaningfulness is one of the most sought‐after work features. Datification work could both facilitate and hinder the pursuit of meaningfulness, yet literature provides little guidance into the nature of the connection and how it transpires. Our inductive study of academic professionals using an accountability system suggests that datification work characteristics link to meaningful work experiences in complex ways. We advance current theory on work meaningfulness by theorizing the role of a new work condition – datification – in meaningfulness experiences of professionals, outlining how system design and the institutional context become important elements influencing meaningful work experiences, and explaining how meaningfulness experiences are constructed through system appropriations.

Date: 2019
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